News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents
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Governor Wolf Responds to Newtown Township's Gun Safety Resolution

On June 13, 2018, the Newtown Board of Supervisors passed a non-binding “gun safety” resolution. The resolution called for gun safety laws that would – among other things - “[Ensure] that background checks are required on all gun sales, including online and at gun shows. In Pennsylvania, preserve the provisions of the Pennsylvania Instant Check System (PICS), which provides instant access to background records.”

In a July 17, 2018, letter to former Township Manager Kurt Ferguson, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf acknowledged receipt of the resolution and said:

"Thank you for your letter and resolution regarding gun control legislation. While improving background check laws to prevent criminals from obtaining firearms is needed, gun violence is not a singular issue. I have travelled throughout the commonwealth, listening and learning from Pennsylvanians about what they are going through and what we can do to address the safety needs of our communities. This Spring, I created the School Safety Task Force in order to address safety concerns in our educational institutions across the commonwealth that were highlighted by the tragedy in Parkland, Florida. I have also called on our leaders in the United States Congress to take steps towards banning military-style weapons and dangerous accessories like bump stocks. These are common sense laws and regulations that need to be put in place in order to ensure the safety of our children, schools, and families. All of us must take steps - community leaders, elected officials, public safety professionals - to continue to work to reduce violence. Please be assured that I will keep your suggestions in mind when reviewing legislation on this matter."

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News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents
These curated news items were selected by John Mack. Any opinions and "insights" appended to these article summaries are solely those of John Mack and do not represent the opinions of any other person or entity.
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In a Meeting with Newtown Officials, PennDOT Agreed to Provide Upgrades to Swamp Road at the Intersection of Twining Bridge Road

In a Meeting with Newtown Officials, PennDOT Agreed to Provide Upgrades to Swamp Road at the Intersection of Twining Bridge Road | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

On July 27, 2018, PennDOT officials met with Newtown Township officials and agreed to provide the following upgrades to Swamp Road at the intersection of Twining Bridge Road:


1.     Shifting double yellow along the center line 2 feet to the east to provide wider inside shoulder through the curve in the southbound direction. 

2.      Install “SLOW Curve Marking” legends in both directions to provide additional warning to the motorists.  

3.      Install “Raised Pavement Markers” to enhance the visibly of roadway alignment at night and/or during inclement weather. 

4.      Stabilize the shoulder with 2A aggregate to address pavement edge drop off from ST project.  

5.      Replace existing warning signs with larger doubled up advance warning signs for additional conspicuity.

6.      Replace damaged roadside delineators to define the edge of road.

7.      Bucks County Maintenance will evaluate the area to address drainage concerns

johnmacknewtown's insight:

This meeting with PennDOT was called in response to resident complaints made at the June 13, 2018, Board of Supervisors meeting. View the video of Jennifer Brennan and other residents of the Knob Hill community who commented regarding trucks on Swamp Road at that meeting. 

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Allentown Earns 39th Tree City USA Designation

Allentown Earns 39th Tree City USA Designation | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

The non-profit Arbor Day Foundation is recognizing Allentown as a Tree City USA for the 39th year!

The Tree City USA program is sponsored by the Foundation in cooperation with the National Association of State Foresters and the USDA Forest Service. The city received written notification of the award last week.

There are four standards to achieve Tree City USA recognition. The municipality must have a tree board or department, a tree care ordinance, a comprehensive community forestry program with annual expenditures of at least $2 per capita and an Arbor Day observance and proclamation.

“Allentown is proud of its long tradition of meeting the criteria to be recognized as a Tree USA community,” said Mayor Ray O’Connell. “Trees bring clean air, clean water, shade and beauty to the neighborhood.”

The city planted more than 200 trees last year.

According to the Foundation, “Properly placed trees can increase property values from 7–20%. Buildings in wooded areas rent more quickly, and tenants stay longer.”

The Foundation is recognizing 111 Pennsylvania municipalities this year. Only five have been recognized more times than Allentown, including Philadelphia and Lancaster.

“Everyone benefits when elected officials, volunteers and committed citizens in communities like Allentown make smart investments in urban forests,” said Matt Harris, chief executive of the Arbor Day Foundation. “Trees bring shade and beauty to our neighborhoods, along with numerous economic, social and environmental benefits.”

More than 3,400 cities and towns across the country have been recognized as a Tree City USA community.

More information on the program is available at www.arborday.org/TreeCityUSA.

johnmacknewtown's insight:

Newtown Borough – but NOT Newtown Township – is one of the 111 Pennsylvania municipalities that are recognized as a Tree USA community! See the list here.

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Developer Presents Third Plan for Arcadia Green Development in Newtown Township

Developer Presents Third Plan for Arcadia Green Development in Newtown Township | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

Arcadia at Newtown Holdings wants to build 23 single-family detached homes and 53 townhomes near the intersection of Buck Road and Newtown Bypass. Township supervisors denied two previous versions of the developer’s plan, following multiple hearings packed with concerned residents.

 

Supervisors listened to feedback from representatives of Arcadia at Newtown Holdings on Wednesday evening regarding plans for 76 residences — 23 single-family detached homes and 53 townhomes — on 22.5 acres near the intersection of Buck Road and Newtown Bypass, as part of a walkable community with built-in open space.

 

Board members rejected two previous versions of the plan for Arcadia Green, first with 34 residences and then with 85, dating back to 2015, citing multiple concerns largely under the umbrella of traffic issues.

 

As with the previous plans, Arcadia submitted its proposal as a tentative planned residential development — a measure that bypasses the township’s regular project approval process but requires supervisors to hold at least one public hearing, where they can hear testimony from members of the development team and review plan components, before reaching a decision.

 

Arcadia attorney John VanLuvanee told supervisors they would be denying the developer due process if they proceeded with a third round of hearings, rather than hashing out project details in private through mediation.

 

VanLuvanee accused the board of effectively condemning the property where Arcadia Green has been proposed by denying the previous plans, and unsuccessfully requested multiple supervisors recuse themselves from voting on the new plan on account of previous “no” votes or external criticisms of the development.

 

He added Arcadia is prepared to appeal a third denial of the project to county court, as it has with the previous two plans, in cases that both are still pending (read “Arcadia Green Sues Newtown Township”).

 

Of township residents, VanLuvanee said, “It seems as if the public has decided that this property really is their property to do with as they please, not the owner’s property to do with as it pleases, subject to compliance with township zoning regulations.”

johnmacknewtown's insight:

Further Reading:

 

View the video of the August 8, 2018, hearing here.

 

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Sale Pending On Former Saloon Restaurant Building, Listing Says

Sale Pending On Former Saloon Restaurant Building, Listing Says | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

A sale is pending on the property that formerly housed The Saloon restaurant, according to an online listing from broker Richardson Commercial. It is not clear at this time who is purchasing the Sycamore Street property or what will be done with it. Richardson Commercial representatives tell Patch more information will be provided post closing.

The 5,100-square-foot property is listed at $2,390,000.

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July 2018 Newtown/Wrightstown Police Report

July 2018 Newtown/Wrightstown Police Report | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

Lt. Jason Harris, Interim Police Chief, presented the Calls Report for June 2018 at the August 8, 2018, Board of Supervisors meeting. In that month, the Newtown Police Department responded to 1,475 calls, 255 (17%) of which were in Wrightstown Township (Newtown Police provides services to both Newtown Township and Wrightstown). Note: Not all calls are listed.

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Tracey Bowen-Tobin of Bowen's Barbershop in Newtown Hired For NBC Sports Show

Tracey Bowen-Tobin of Bowen's Barbershop in Newtown  Hired For NBC Sports Show | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

A Newtown barber has been selected as the resident stylist and makeup artist for an NBC Sports show that will air later this month.

Tracey Bowen-Tobin of Bowen's Barbershop in Newtown has been selected as the resident barber for the soccer show "Men In Blazers," which is entering its fifth season.

Bowen-Tobin will be working part-time out of New York City to do the hair and makeup for host Michael Davies, along with the other host and all the celebrity guests. As the sole resident barber, she'll handle the cutting, shaving, grooming, and makeup for all participants, she explained.

johnmacknewtown's insight:

Congrats!

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See The New Newtown Middle School [PHOTOS]

See The New Newtown Middle School [PHOTOS] | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

The start of the next school year is only weeks away, and many students in Newtown will be headed to an all-new school come September. The Council Rock School District on Wednesday unveiled photos of the new Newtown Middle School, showing images of the exterior, interior, auditorium and more.

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Construction is Underway for Drive-thru Starbucks in Newtown

Construction is Underway for Drive-thru Starbucks in Newtown | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

The coffee shop chain's third Newtown location is currently being built in what was formerly a portion of the parking lot adjacent to the McCaffrey's in the Village at Newtown Shopping Center.

 

In May, the Board of Supervisors unanimously rejected a conditional use application for the proposal, saying it would crowd the area and squeeze too many buildings onto the shopping center site. However, after an appeal was filed, officials cautioned there could be further legal complications if the settlement were not approved. [Read “Drive-thru Starbucks is Back on Track!”]

 

Starbucks currently operates a location in Newtown Borough and a counter at the nearby Acme grocery store.

johnmacknewtown's insight:

Newtown resident Tina Cameron commented at a July 11, 2018, Board of Supervisors meeting about the trees that were cut down to make way for the drive-thru Starbucks and other stores/banks in the Village at Newtown shopping center. This lead to comments from the Board of Supervisors regarding possible remedies. View this 9-minute video clip.

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Governor Wolf to Launch First Statewide LGBTQ Affairs Commission

Governor Wolf to Launch First Statewide LGBTQ Affairs Commission | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

Governor Tom Wolf today will sign an executive order creating the Pennsylvania Commission on LGBTQ [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning] Affairs, the only one in the nation.

 

“The creation of the commission on LGBTQ Affairs is one step of many we have taken to ensure obstacles are removed for anyone who is facing an unfair disadvantage based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression,” Gov. Wolf said. “It’s a step we took together with our stakeholder and advocacy groups and one that those involved asked for – a commission to help coordinate and drive statewide equality efforts.”

 

The 40-member commission will be led by executive director Todd Snovel. Most recently the Assistant Dean for Engagement and Inclusion at Lebanon Valley College where he led the team working with students in the co-curricular experience and initiated campus-wide efforts in equity, diversity, and inclusion, Snovel also teaches college-level courses on the studies of genders, sexualities, and identities.

 

“Today’s announcement is timely and important, but also not the end of our efforts to create a Pennsylvania that espouses inclusion and diversity in all that we do,” Gov. Wolf said. “The efforts of the LGBTQ work group, established early in my administration, are recognized in many accomplishments that will continue and that group’s work will move forward as a function of this commission.

 

“When I became governor, we saw that change was needed and we made it happen. Better yet, we are still making it happen and will do so until every Pennsylvanian can live, work, love, and thrive in our state with an assuredness of support and safety.”

johnmacknewtown's insight:

If only there was a state law that banned discrimination against the LGBTQ community, local municipalities would not have to pass anti-discrimination ordinances that filled the gap!

 

At the July 11, 2018, Newtown Board of Supervisors meeting, John Mack proposed that Newtown Township adopt an anti-discrimination ordinance similar to neighboring municipalities (e.g., Yardley; read "Yardley Borough Passes Local Anti-Discrimination Ordinance") to protect from discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations, etc. Town solicitor Mr. Sander will provide a draft of an ordinance for a future agenda item.

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Council Rock North Is Bucks Co.'s Top High School In New Ranking

Council Rock North Is Bucks Co.'s Top High School In New Ranking | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

Council Rock North was ranked as the number one public high school in Bucks County in a new analysis by data experts at Niche.com. North came in 17th in the state.

Central Bucks South, then Central Bucks East were ranked next in Bucks County, followed by New Hope-Solebury in fourth place. Council Rock South came in fifth in the county, and 29th in the state.

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Falls Wawa Developer Wins Case Brought by Local Service Station But “SLAPPs” a Lawsuit Against Residents Who Spoke Up at Public Meeting

Falls Wawa Developer Wins Case Brought by Local Service Station But “SLAPPs” a Lawsuit Against Residents Who Spoke Up at Public Meeting | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

The owners of the Plaza Shell service station in Morrisville moved last week to withdraw their appeal from state Commonwealth Court. At question was whether the fuel-selling Wawa counted as a service station and therefore violated the Falls code that requires a 1,500-foot minimum distance between stations. The Shell is about 600 feet away.

 

Falls supervisors made two votes in May 2017, first to allow a Wawa where West Trenton Avenue intersects Pine Grove Road, and then to approve onsite fuel sales. Plaza Shell appealed the fuel-sale vote to county court the next month, accusing the board of violating the township’s requirement between service stations.

 

The board — and Wawa — had argued that Wawa was a convenience store, not a service station, under township code, which defines service stations as “providing for the sale of fuel, lubricants, automotive accessories, maintenance and minor repairs for motor vehicles.” The Wawa would not provide maintenance or minor repairs.

 

The developer’s separate county court complaint, seeking $11 million from residents and business owners it alleges stalled approval on the three stores through opposition at public meetings, remains ongoing as of Monday afternoon.

johnmacknewtown's insight:

The last sentence of this article sends a chill down my spine. From May 14, 2018, story

 

“The case also names two Falls residents living near the development site, off Pine Grove Road and West Trenton Avenue, who alongside the business owners spoke up against the proposal at public meetings.”

 

This is an example of a “SLAPP” lawsuit — or a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation. According to the Public Participation Project, a national nonprofit, SLAPPs are “damaging” suits designed to “chill free speech and health debate by targeting those who communicate with their government or speak out on issues of public interest.”

 

SLAPPs are effective because even a meritless lawsuit can take years and many thousands of dollars to defend. To end or prevent a SLAPP, those who speak out on issues of public interest frequently agree to muzzle themselves, apologize, or “correct” statements.

 

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Lower Southampton Zoning Records in Disarray: Is It Just Sloppy Bookkeeping or Something More? We May Never Know.

Lower Southampton Zoning Records in Disarray: Is It Just Sloppy Bookkeeping or Something More? We May Never Know. | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

Lower Southampton zoning records are in such disarray that it could be expensive to perform a deeper dive into department operations than a recent, two-year review that found “irregularities,” according to a township supervisor.

 

The township paid Keystone $5,000 to review a sample of subdivision and land development plan files and zoning permits following the February retirement of zoning officer Carol Drioli, who headed the department for 16 years. The supervisors stated at the time Drioli’s retirement presented an opportunity to verify compliance with state building codes and identify where improvements could be made.

 

Keystone randomly chose seven subdivision and land development applications and 19 zoning and building permit applications between 2015 and last year, and found many contained sloppy record-keeping, including the failure to keep all building, zoning and land development records associated with a property together. The consultant also said there were misplaced or missing land development plans, missing inspector signatures, missing inspection reports, missing permit applications and “numerous” projects improperly issued permits without going through the land development approval process, which adds time and expense to a project.

 

[Supervisor Kim Koutsouradis] said he’s concerned about the cost of further analysis, but he also wants to know if the mistakes revealed in the Keystone report are anomalies or represent a pattern that should be looked at further, and if the township could face any liability.

 

“A big fear of mine is we may not ever know exactly what the damage was done to the township financially. But I do feel we just can’t sit on our hands and do absolutely nothing about it. We owe it to our residents to at least look into this further than what we already have,” he said.

 

Township Solicitor Francis Dillon declined to comment on if the township could be held legally liable for any deficiencies in the zoning department property files.

 

“I will not answer your questions. I answer to my client,” Dillon said.

 

A half dozen residents last month called on the board to conduct a further review of previous zoning department records following a presentation on Keystone Municipal Services’ findings.

 

“Our fear is that while this exercise reviewed a sampling of applications there were many applications that were not reviewed that will contain similar irregularities,” Keystone Municipal President Richard O’Brien wrote in the report.

 

“Permits establish a record so a township knows what ... is going on,” [Herman Slaybaugh, co-chairman of the Pennsylvania Municipal Planning Education Institute] said. “If you can’t find out what you’ve done, that is pretty sloppy bookkeeping. The whole purpose of having permits is to verify a property was built in compliance. If you can’t index that and go back and find it, that was an exercise in futility.”

 

O’Brien told the board last month that the review didn’t find any “malfeasance.”

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A Large Electronic Billboard – Touted as “the Middleown Monument” – is Being Erected at Intersection of Route 1 and Oxford Valley Road Near Wawa!

A Large Electronic Billboard – Touted as “the Middleown Monument” – is Being Erected at Intersection of Route 1 and Oxford Valley Road Near Wawa! | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

A spot in Middletown on its border with Falls will soon be an electronic fountain of information.

 

Catalyst Outdoor Advertising of Newtown Square, Delaware County, is erecting a large electronic billboard called the Middletown Monument at the corner of Business Route 1 and Bristol Oxford Valley Road, less than a half-mile from the Oxford Valley Mall.

 

The "monument" will replace a transmission repair shop at the site that had been closed for several years and was considered an eyesore by many. Catalyst Founding Partner Thaddeus Bartkowski said the project should be completed early next month.

 

It will consist of a 45-foot-high M and T, standing for Middletown Township. Attached will be a 480-square-foot horizontal screen and two 450 square-foot vertical screens flashing various community or township informational messages — or paid advertisements from companies — every few seconds. One of the screens will be seen by motorists or walking or biking pedestrians approaching the intersection from three different directions, Bartkowski said.

johnmacknewtown's insight:

Note that (1) Catalyst Outdoor salesman Robert DeGoria and Michael J. Savona, former Lower Southampton solicitor, each pleaded guilty to one count of false statements in U.S. District Court in March, 2018 (story here) and (2) DeGoria made a pitch for a similar electronic billboard to the Newtown Board of Supervisors on October 17, 2016 (video here). 

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Businesses Join "Open to All" Coalition Pledging Not to Discriminate

Businesses Join "Open to All" Coalition Pledging Not to Discriminate | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

Levi Strauss, Yelp and Lyft are leading a coalition of 1,200 businesses and cities that are pledging not to discriminate against employees or customers based on race, sexual orientation, or other characteristics.

 

Normally, making a promise to serve every customer might seem like a no-brainer. But the Open to All coalition is launching in a highly charged atmosphere, with florists refusing to provide flowers for gay weddings and stores turning away Muslim customers. The aggrieved include a transgender woman who in June was harassed by staff at a Washington restaurant for using the women's restroom.

 

The Open to All coalition got its start late last year as the U.S. Supreme Court was preparing to consider the case of a Colorado baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple because it violated his religious beliefs. The court ultimately ruled for the baker but didn't give businesses a blanket right to discriminate against gays.

 

Calla Rongerude, Open to All's campaign manager, said businesses were asking civil rights groups how to make it clear they would serve gays and other minorities. The cities of New York and Oakland, California, are also part of the coalition, as are 190 civil rights groups, organizations and faith groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Interfaith Alliance, the Service Employees International Union and the NAACP.

johnmacknewtown's insight:

At the July 11, 2018, Newtown Board of Supervisors meeting, John Mack proposed that Newtown Township adopt an antidiscrimination ordinance similar to neighboring municipalities (e.g., Yardley; read "Yardley Borough Passes Local Anti-Discrimination Ordinance") to protect from discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations, etc. Town solicitor Mr. Sander will provide a draft of an ordinance for a future agenda item.

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Newtown Township Planning Commission Weighs in on Plans for a Wawa on the Bypass - Consensus is Opposed

Newtown Township Planning Commission Weighs in on Plans for a Wawa on the Bypass - Consensus is Opposed | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

Depending upon who you talk to in town, a plan to build a new Wawa on the Newtown Bypass is either a great idea or a very bad one.

 

So it’s not surprising that when the township’s planning commission was asked by a developer to weigh in on the conceptual use the results were mixed.

 

[Note: In his report to the Supervisors, Planning Commission Chair Allen Fidler said "The informal consensus of the Commission [was] not in favor of this particular use at this site"; see here.]

 

The Provco Group, a commercial real estate agency based in Villanova and the equitable owner of the property, appeared before the planners to gauge its reaction to the concept of building a 5,585 square foot Wawa with gas pumps on a five acre parcel across from Crossing Community Church at Lower Silver Lake Road and the Bypass.

 

At the meeting, Attorney John VanLuvanee, representing Michael Cooley of the Provco Group, informally outlined plans for a Super Wawa at the site and presented updated renderings showing how the overgrown parcel would developed on the bypass (see plans and video here: “Updated Wawa Plan Presented to Newtown Planning Commission”).

 

Since the property is located in the township’s Office Research Zone, the developer would either need to secure an amendment to the zoning ordinance or to seek relief in the form of a “laundry list of variances” from the Zoning Hearing Board (see here). That process would be cumbersome and considerably more costly and time consuming.

 

[Planning Commission member] Larry Galley said he would like to see a Wawa in Newtown, but not at that location.

 

“I personally use their stores weekly for food and for fuel. I just don’t think this location is the most desirable for Newtown. Approving this application will set a precedent for future development along the bypass ... The bypass is kind of sacred and I would like to keep it that way.”

 

His comments were echoed by [Planning Commission member]  Peggy Driscoll who blasted the idea of locating a Wawa on the bypass.

 

“We have worked on the planning commission and on the township for years to protect this bypass from development. It’s a green space,” she said. “If you drive down the bypass the ride through Newtown Township is beautiful. You change the zoning there that will be its downfall. You want to see the result, go to Street Road. I don’t think people want to see the bypass change like that.”

 

[Planning Commission member] Paul Cohen disagreed with the bypass argument, saying the bypass has already been developed.

 

“The way I see it the land is privately owned and it’s going to be developed. Yeah, of course, we’d love to keep everything pristine, but if you look at the bypass it is developed. On the north side of the bypass, starting with the NAC, there’s building after building. They are properly screened and it looks good. I don’t see this creating any sort of domino affect.”

 

Planning [Commission] chair Allen Fidler said he’s “torn” by the application.

 

“I’ve been around long enough to know the bypass is sacred, the economic viability of our business commons is important, the quality of life is important, but property rights must also be respected - the right to develop. Do I think this is the best use of the site? Definitely not. Do I think the jointure is running a risk by combining convenience and gas services at the same location, I think we are.

 

“I would love to see a Wawa as a stand-alone retail spot without fuel,” he continued. “I know they don’t want to do it. It’s not in their business model. But if you’re a convenience store and Wawa makes great coffee and great sandwiches, do they really need the petroleum products? I like the separation that the jointure has had for the past 25 years. It has worked and it should continue to work in the future.”

 

Their comments will now be forwarded to the board of supervisors who will make the ultimate decision on whether the concept moves forward (see video of Alan Fidler presenting the results to the Board of Supervisors: “Report on WaWa Presentation Before the Planning Commission”).

johnmacknewtown's insight:

See the video of the entire Planning Commission hearing here.

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Democrat Dennis Fisher Appointed to Fill Vacancy on Newtown Board of Supervisors

Democrat Dennis Fisher Appointed to Fill Vacancy on Newtown Board of Supervisors | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

In a vote along party lines, the board of supervisors appointed former township Democratic Party chairman Dennis Fisher to fill the unexpired term of Jennifer Dix, who resigned in June to move to New Hampshire with her family.

 

He will fill Dix’s six-year term which expires at the end of 2019.

 

At the July 25 meeting, the board voted 3-1 to appoint Fisher, who is currently the elected township auditor, a post that he has held since January and will have to resign in order to sit on the board.

 

Voting for Fisher were fellow Democrats Phil Calabro, John Mack and Linda Bobrin.

 

Fisher was one of seven candidates that board members interviewed for the vacancy at a special July 18 three-hour public meeting (read .

 

The other candidates were Kierstyn Zolfo, Ben Connolly, Jerry Festa, Jo Vlastaris, John D’Aprile and Gerry Couch, a former township supervisor (read “Meet the 8 Applicants Vying to Fill the Vacancy on the Newtown Board of Supervisors”;  Note: one applicant did not show up for the interview).

 

Fisher has been the long-time chairman of the Newtown Democratic Committee, also known as Newtown Democrats, until he resigned in June after deciding not to seek reelection to the leadership post.

 

He was also a member of Newtown’s planning commission from 2005 until December 2018, a position he had to resign after winning the election for township auditor in November.

 

Speaking with BucksLocalNews.com, Fisher credited his 12 years as a planner to helping him understand the intricacies of zoning and land development.

 

“I was kind of a lay person to the terminology, I learned how to read plans,” he explained, “I was a social worker by training, so it was a learning curve. You also need input from the citizens, regular people, that’s important.”

 

The new supervisor will be formally sworn into office at the Aug. 8 meeting and will undoubtedly be hitting the ground running.

 

At that meeting, the supervisors have tentatively scheduled a public hearing on the updated plans of Arcadia Green to build a controversial residential development on Buck Road near the Newtown Bypass (see public notice).

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EPA Meeting in Horsham is All About Perfluorinated Chemical Contamination of Local Water Supplies

EPA Meeting in Horsham is All About Perfluorinated Chemical Contamination of Local Water Supplies | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

High-ranking officials will be among the contingent sent by the Environmental Protection Agency to its Community Engagement session in Horsham on Wednesday. The all-day meeting, originally announced in early summer, will focus on perfluorinated chemicals that have contaminated the aquifer beneath Horsham, Warminster, Warrington and parts of surrounding communities.

 

According to a full agenda released last week, those attending will include Peter Grevatt, the agency’s top official for ground and drinking water issues, as well as Andy Gillespie, an associate director of the agency’s Office of Research and Development.

 

Also attending will be the Department of Defense’s Maureen Sullivan, who serves as deputy assistant secretary for environment, safety and occupational health, in addition to officials with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

 

Perfluorinated chemicals are currently unregulated, and have been popping up in water supplies across the country. Local contamination was discovered in 2014, and eventually was found to affect the drinking water of at least 70,000 current residents along the Bucks and Montgomery County border, as well as uncounted former residents and military veterans. The chemicals are suspected to have come from firefighting foams used at area military bases.

 

The day will begin at 10 a.m. with introductory remarks, followed by Grevatt giving an update on the agency’s actions on the chemicals. Gillespie will then present EPA research on the chemicals, followed by the DOD and CDC officials sharing “their experiences and challenges with PFAS.”

 

Following a lunch break, representatives of the Pennsylvania agencies will be joined by their counterparts from neighboring states to discuss issues each state faces. There also will be local panels, with a 1 p.m. session bringing together 10 municipal and water authority executives to discuss their experiences. At 2 p.m., local residents Hope Grosse and Joanne Stanton, along with Philadelphia environmental attorney Mark Cuker, will deliver a “community presentation.”

 

After an afternoon break, an open public comment period will run from 3:45 to 9 p.m.

 

Further Reading:

johnmacknewtown's insight:

I will attend and report what I learned at an upcoming Board of Supervisors meeting (hopefully, the Aug 8, 2018, session).  A representative of the Newtown Artesian Water Company hopefully will also be there to present a report on the quality of Newtown water and to answer questions from residents.

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Arcadia Green Newtown Housing Development Again Proposed for Buck Road. Supervisors Prepare for Well-Attended Public Hearing

Arcadia Green Newtown Housing Development Again Proposed for Buck Road. Supervisors Prepare for Well-Attended Public Hearing | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

For the third time in three years, the Philadelphia-based Arcadia Land Development Co. has proposed a residential development off of Buck Road and the Newtown Bypass.

 

At the July 11 supervisors’ meeting, township solicitor David Sander announced that the developer has submitted another Planned Residential Development (PRD) application which requires that the supervisors hold public hearings on the matter and render a decision within a certain timeframe.

 

In response to the new application for the Arcadia Green project, the supervisors voted 4-0 to hire Hill Wallack, LLP to represent the township in the PRD process as “special counsel.”

 

Under the contract, the law firm, which has an office in Yardley, will be paid $135 an hour for its services.

 

Under the PRD process, which is permitted by state law, the township’s normal planning and zoning channels are bypassed. It gives the supervisors sole authority to approve a development plan in an expedited manner while allowing developers to fast-track their projects.

 

In December, the supervisors had unanimously accepted a lengthy report which called for rejecting the controversial housing development, citing traffic as one of the key reasons.

 

That document had recommended that the board reject Arcadia Green, a proposed 85 unit residential development to be built on a 27.6 acre tract.

 

However, scores of residents in the adjoining Newtown [Crossing] and Eagle Ridge communities had expressed outrage over the proposal, claiming that it would create a traffic nightmare for the area.

 

Homeowners from the adjoining communities were not only upset about the loss of open space and increased traffic, but also had opposed plans to tear down a home on an existing cul-de-sac in Newtown Crossing so that an exit-only road could be built for the proposed development (read “Newtown Crossing vs. Arcadia”).

 

Another exit road also had been planned for the Newtown Bypass, but PennDOT had not supported the developer’s request.

 

It’s not known what the newest proposal calls for, but it’s expected to elicit renewed public criticism from neighbors, as well as detailed scrutiny from township leaders.

 

Arcadia Green was formerly known as the Wynmere/Karr tract.

 

Further Reading:

Arcadia Green Development Hearings

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New Jersey Updates Fish Consumption Advisories for Lower Delaware River Watershed, Expands Testing to Include PFAS

New Jersey Updates Fish Consumption Advisories for Lower Delaware River Watershed, Expands Testing to Include PFAS | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

The Department of Environmental Protection, in partnership with the New Jersey Department of Health, has updated recreational fish advisories for tributaries, lakes and ponds in the lower Delaware River watershed as part of the state’s ongoing fish-safety monitoring program.

 

The DEP has also expanded testing of fish in selected water bodies in this and other regions of the state to include several chemicals of emerging concern known as perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, known as PFAS. These analyses have resulted in the DEP’s first consumption advisories for these chemicals.

 

“Before going fishing, anglers should take a few minutes to review advisories in place for their favorite fishing spots so they can make good decisions about eating the fish they catch,” said DEP Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe.


The DEP tested 11 fish species in 14 water bodies in Burlington, Camden, Cumberland, Gloucester, Ocean and Salem counties for PCBs, mercury and pesticides. The testing resulted in less restrictive advisories for 36 species than had been in place, while 24 saw no change. Ten advisories are now more restrictive.

Data also was collected for species not tested in previous years as well as at one new sample location. The new data resulted in 30 new consumption advisories for the lower Delaware River watershed region.

 

Due to growing concerns over the presence of PFAS in the environment, the DEP also sampled water, sediment and fish tissue samples from a limited number of water bodies in the lower Delaware River watershed and other regions of the state.

Water bodies were selected based on their proximity to potential sources of PFAS and their likelihood of being used for recreational and fishing purposes. PFAS were detected at varying levels and combinations in all of the water bodies tested.

 

PFAS – which include compounds more commonly known as PFOA, PFOS and PFNA – were once widely used in a variety of applications, including non-stick cookware, stain-resistant clothing and fabrics, food packaging, and in firefighting foams. These chemicals are persistent in the environment and can accumulate in people exposed to them.

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According to emails obtained through open records requests, Lora Werner, regional director of the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, emailed state officials about the concern in October 2016. That agency is a division of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a primary federal agency tasked with assessing health impacts from toxic exposures.

 

Following public meetings in Horsham, an area of extensive PFAS contamination from a pair of nearby military bases, Werner noted, “There is a question about consuming fish from local creeks in the Warminster/Willow Grove area.”

 

Read: "New Jersey releases fish advisories for PFAS"

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The Bucks County Association of Township Officials Will Study What Works & What Does Not Work to Encourage Emergency Services Volunteerism

The Bucks County Association of Township Officials Will Study What Works & What Does Not Work to Encourage Emergency Services Volunteerism | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

The Bucks County Association of Township Officials is organizing a database of available and proposed resources to push emergency services volunteerism in the county.

 

Volunteerism rates for fire departments especially show an “alarming” downward trend, and the association hopes the database will help bolster volunteer rates by educating municipalities and departments about past, present and possible future state programs and laws to help bolster volunteer numbers.

 

“Options are available to decision-makers to help encourage residents to volunteer for emergency services duty in our communities,” association President and Lower Southampton Supervisor Vice President Joe McFadden said in a letter to municipal managers and officials.

 

As examples of past and present laws, McFadden in his letter cited Act 172 of 2016, a municipal tax-credit program for emergency volunteers (read “Some Bucks Towns Opt for Volunteer Stipends”), and Senate Resolution 60 of 2004, which established a legislative commission for laws to provide direct and indirect volunteer assistance.

 

“The problem is, how do you get your arms around it all to decide what is the best option for your township or department,” McFadden added.

 

McFadden also referred to a current senate resolution, SR-6, introduced by state Sen. Randy Vulakovich, R-38, Allegheny County. Also known as the SR-60 Reboot, the bill is a follow-up study to the 2004 resolution.

 

The database is not ready yet, but the project did take its first steps with the association’s Municipal Cooperative Survey, an initial information-gathering effort to shape the next steps of the overall project.

 

The association’s goal is to develop not only a list of volunteer retention programs, but also collect information on how those programs did or did not work.

 

Only elected officials and certain township staff are asked to participate in the survey.

johnmacknewtown's insight:

Consider these sobering facts (abstracted from a PSATS OpEd):

 

  • Volunteers at fire companies across Pennsylvania have dropped from 300,000 strong in the 1960s and ’70s to below 50,000 today.
  • At least 75 percent of fire companies are struggling with manpower at a time when the state’s population is aging. The average age of a firefighter is 50-something, and people are busier today than they were decades ago.
  • Communities would have to raise taxes almost $10 billion a year to switch to a paid model for fire service, according to the office of the state fire commissioner. Who can afford that kind of property tax increase in their community?
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Governor Wolf Responds to Newtown Township's Gun Safety Resolution

On June 13, 2018, the Newtown Board of Supervisors passed a non-binding “gun safety” resolution. The resolution called for gun safety laws that would – among other things - “[Ensure] that background checks are required on all gun sales, including online and at gun shows. In Pennsylvania, preserve the provisions of the Pennsylvania Instant Check System (PICS), which provides instant access to background records.”

In a July 17, 2018, letter to former Township Manager Kurt Ferguson, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf acknowledged receipt of the resolution and said:

"Thank you for your letter and resolution regarding gun control legislation. While improving background check laws to prevent criminals from obtaining firearms is needed, gun violence is not a singular issue. I have travelled throughout the commonwealth, listening and learning from Pennsylvanians about what they are going through and what we can do to address the safety needs of our communities. This Spring, I created the School Safety Task Force in order to address safety concerns in our educational institutions across the commonwealth that were highlighted by the tragedy in Parkland, Florida. I have also called on our leaders in the United States Congress to take steps towards banning military-style weapons and dangerous accessories like bump stocks. These are common sense laws and regulations that need to be put in place in order to ensure the safety of our children, schools, and families. All of us must take steps - community leaders, elected officials, public safety professionals - to continue to work to reduce violence. Please be assured that I will keep your suggestions in mind when reviewing legislation on this matter."

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Bad Turf, Contaminated Water, Discrimination, & Birds Discussed at Recent Newtown Township Board of Supervisors Meeting

The Newtown Township Supervisors voted unanimously July 11, to approve a settlement with Adams Bickle Associates, a Royersford contractor the township hired to install turf at Veterans Park in 2012.

 

Back then, township inspectors became unsatisfied with the work that was done at the park and subsequently withheld $158,000 in payments to the contractor.

 

In the settlement with Adams Bickle, the contractor agreed to accept $122,000 as payment in full and both parties agreed to pay their own legal fees. According to outgoing Township Manager Kurt Ferguson, the township spent the difference paying another contractor to finish the work not completed by Adams Bickle.

 

In other news, the supervisors voted 3-1 to spend more than $21,000 to replace the microphone system at the Public Administration Building’s meeting room. Board member Kyle Davis voted against the plan that would see more than $13,000 paid to Horizon Information Services for new mics and over $8,000 to Video Gold Productions for installation.

 

The supervisors also voted 4-0 to appoint Micah Lewis as interim township manager after Ferguson’s departure on July 13. Lewis has been the township’s assistant manager since 2015. While Ferguson accepted a job as township manager in Lower Makefield, he has agreed to work as a consultant to Newtown, at least through the remainder of the 2018 fiscal year.

 

Meanwhile, Secretary/Assistant Treasurer John Mack wants residents to be aware of a public meeting being hosted by the EPA at Hatboro-Horsham High School from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. July 25. Workshops will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. with discussion to follow.

 

The subject matter is perfluorinated compounds or PFAs.

 

“Our neighbors in Horsham, Warminster and Warrington had some of the highest levels, nationwide, of PFAs – which have been found to be toxic – in their drinking water.

 

“Newtown Artesian Water Company says it follows state and federal guidelines for acceptable levels of these chemicals. But there’s controversy over what is and what is not an acceptable level and the role that the EPA plays in determining that level.”

 

Mack is also pressing the board to draft an anti-discrimination ordinance that would extend protections against discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodation regardless of race, color, gender, religion, ancestry, national origin, sexual orientation, veteran status and mental or physical disability.

 

Pennsylvania is the only state in the Northeast that does not extend those protections based on sexual orientation and gender identification. Yardley recently became the fifth municipality in Bucks County to approve such legislation. Doylestown, New Hope and Bristol also have passed anti-discrimination bills.

johnmacknewtown's insight:

At the August 8, 2018, Board of Supervisors meeting, I will present what I learned at at the Horsham EPA meeting. A represntative of the Artesian Water Company hopefully will also be there to present a report on the quality of Newtown water and to answer questions from residents.

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Newtown Residents Concerned About Trees in Shopping Center

Newtown Residents Concerned About Trees in Shopping Center | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

Joni Mitchell says in her 70s pop hit “Big Yellow Tax,” “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot. With a pink hotel, a boutique and a swinging hot spot.”

In Newtown Township, they’re putting the trees in a museum to put up a coffee shop, however.

While Starbucks just recently received approval from the township supervisors to operate a free-standing restaurant and drive-through at the Village of Newtown Shopping Center, residents were surprised recently to see a group of trees removed near the site of the proposed coffee shop in the 2800 block of Eagle Road.

“I’m crying over the trees; I really am,” said Tina Cameron, of Tyler Walk, during public comments made at the July 11 supervisors meeting. “Seeing all those trees cut down definitely brought this to light." [See a video of her comments here.]

At its May 9 meeting ... the current board voted 5-0 to deny the coffee company a use permit to grant it permission to operate a nearly 2,000-square-foot Starbucks with a drive-through at a location that sits adjacent to Bank of America.

The coffee company followed with a lawsuit against the township, however. Facing legal implications and expense, the board, at its June 27 meeting, decided – by a 4-1 margin – that it was in its best interest to reverse tide and grant Starbucks its use permit.”

“We didn’t have the upper hand here. The development project had already been approved,” said board Chairman Phil Calabro.

“They had the right to build it so there was no way we could stop them. If it was taken to court, it would have probably gone against us.”


“The way that that looks now is not at all the way that it’s going to look,” said outgoing Township Manager Kurt Ferguson. “Could they have moved the driveway and saved the trees? Possibly, except they have minimum parking requirements that they had to meet.”

johnmacknewtown's insight:

The "landscaping plan" for the area around the drive-thru Starbucks includes replacement trees. It remains to be seen how the area will look after the work is completed. (see section of plan shown above).

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State Rep. Perry Warren's House Bill 1400 Would Strengthen Gun Background Check System

State Rep. Perry Warren's House Bill 1400 Would Strengthen Gun Background Check System | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

State Rep. Perry Warren intends to give a gun safety measure a second chance, after lawmakers narrowly decided against advancing a previous bill out of committee.

 

House Bill 1400 would have required universal background checks for all gun transfers or purchases, beyond just short-barreled guns — closing what lawmakers have christened the “long gun” loophole. But the bill failed to reach the full House floor by a 14-13 vote last month in the House Judiciary Committee, 13 months after the bill was introduced and referred to the committee in May 2017.

 

That margin was close enough get Warren’s attention. “There are a number of things that can turn a one-vote decision,” he said Tuesday.

 

Though not a committee member, Warren, D-31, of Newtown Borough, cosponsored House Bill 1400, and now plans on introducing its successor.

 

Warren’s bill closely mirrors its predecessor, minus one provision that would have allowed firearm buyers to undertake just one background check if they wanted to make multiple purchases at a gun show.

 

If approved, the bill would require all gun purchases or transfers outside a family to be done before a licensed firearms dealer or county sheriff, a process also involving approval from the state police’s Instant Check System, used to cross-reference a prospective buyer’s background records.

 

Warren referred to a March Franklin & Marshall College poll of 423 registered state voters, indicating 86 percent of the voters “strongly favor” enhancing the gun background check system.

 

In a recent memo, he also said the current law allows unauthorized individuals to purchase long guns, including military-style rifles like AR-15s, some of which have seen use in deadly mass shootings.

johnmacknewtown's insight:

On June 13, 2018, the Newtown Board of Supervisors passed a non-binding “gun safety” resolution (see here). This resolution called for gun safety laws that would – among other things - “[Ensure] that background checks are required on all gun sales, including online and at gun shows. In Pennsylvania, preserve the provisions of the Pennsylvania Instant Check System (PICS), which provides instant access to background records.”

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DUI Detail Report | Newtown Township Police Department

DUI Detail Report | Newtown Township Police Department | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

On Saturday July 7, 2018, the Bucks County DUI Task Force held a static DUI detail on the Newtown Bypass, in the area of Sycamore Street.  During the detail, which occurred from 10:00 pm to 3:00 am, contact was made with approximately 600 vehicles and resulted in 12 motorists being stopped for further field testing.  Of those 12, 7 drivers, one of whom had a child who was age 5 in their vehicle, were unable to satisfactorily perform field sobriety testing and were ultimately placed under arrest for suspicion of driving under the influence.  They were then processed at Northampton Township Police Department, and charges are pending lab results.  One driver, who showed signs of impairment but not sufficiently to be charged with DUI, was stopped from driving and was allowed to arrange for an alternate ride home.  The remaining four drivers were able to pass field sobriety testing and allowed to continue on their way.  One additional arrest was made of a passenger who had consumed alcohol while being under the age of 21, and one motorist was issued traffic citations for careless driving and driving with a suspended license when he drove over a median in an attempt to avoid the checkpoint.

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Curated by johnmacknewtown
I am a retired small businessman who has lived in Newtown Township PA since 1995. The opinions expressed here are solely mine and do not represent the opinions of any other person or entity.